Young people don’t want to play for a losing team whose objective is a national stranglehold on people’s happiness. So now what?
In a recent conversation with a dozen well-educated young social conservatives, I found that hardly any held to what ten years ago would have been considered the conservative position on marriage. A few had accepted the idea that marriage was a social construction that a majority could change. Others opted for the view that it was a religious institution, and political outcomes on the subject didn’t really matter. Still others thought that there were just other, more winnable, battles worth fighting. The most common sentiment: even though none thought a same-sex relationship was a marriage, almost none wanted to play for a losing team whose objective was a national stranglehold on people’s happiness.
Common sense has apparently changed a lot in only a few years. When the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was passed in 1996, the overwhelming majority considered it common sense to protect such a fundamental institution as marriage. By the time of the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA this summer in United States v. Windsor, the court’s majority considered it common sense that those same people could only have been motivated by mean-spiritedness. As Justice Scalia summarized in his dissent, “The majority says that the supporters of this Act acted with malice—with the ‘purpose to disparage and to injure’ same-sex couples. It says that the motivation for DOMA was to ‘demean’; to ‘impose inequality’; to ‘impose . . . a stigma’; to deny people ‘equal dignity’; to brand gay people as ‘unworthy’; and to ‘humiliate’ their children.”
In such a context, the young people in my conversation weren’t being unreasonable. They all felt the pressure of opposing the dominant cultural narrative that had shaped their short adult lives. Some had had their perceptions of reality altered by it, and the rest didn’t have the will or the strength to swim against its overwhelming current. In this narrative, officially endorsed in Windsor by the highest court in the land, it is common sense that marriage advocates are all haters.
Yet gay rights and revising marriage aren’t the same thing, as France’s policy debates on the issue have shown.
What, then, is a hater to do?
Brian Brown loves building the environments, habits, and networks that make people thrive. He is the founder of Humane Pursuits, where he writes a featured column and edits the Give channel. He started his consulting company, Narrator, to help great mission-driven organizations modernize and grow. He lives with his wife Christina and son Edmund in Colorado Springs, where they mix cocktails, hunt for historic architecture, and see how many people they can squeeze into their house for happy hour.